Free Yourself to Make Something Ordinary

 

garment bag stitching

 

Now that I’ve told you a little more about why we travel most of the summer, I can also share some things I’ve made for our trips.

 

Our clothes spend a fair amount of time in a “closet” consisting of a thin strip of wood between the shelves we have built into our truck.  It’s much better than keeping them in a suitcase, but still not ideal since they are unprotected.  At the end of last summer, when we unpacked the clothes from truck to house, I noticed that one my jackets was significantly more faded on one side than the other.  Maybe hanging it with the same side to the skylight for the whole summer was not the best idea?  The same thing happened to Bryan’s jacket, so I’m pretty sure that extra UV light on one side was the problem—combined with the fact that it was warm last summer and the jackets didn’t come off the rack very often.  I had been thinking vaguely for a couple of years about making some kind of garment bags to protect our clothes from getting dirty/scratched up as we move things in and out of the truck, especially as I have started to take more me-made garments on the road.  This was the final straw, I had to do it.

 

garment bags hanging 2

 

I decided to make two, each half the width of our “closet.”  One would be slightly longer than my summer dresses, and the other just long enough to protect shirts and pants.  I traced a plastic hanger for the shape of the sides, and left a split in the front to close with a zipper.

 

This was the perfect scrap/thrift store shopping project.  Since it didn’t matter exactly what the garment bags looked like, as long as they worked, I could use practically anything.  I used the last of some heavy canvas from old curtains that came with our house, plus another small curtain (made out of some great textured blue-green fabric) that I bought at Goodwill.

 

garment bags hanging

 

This may seem like a strange project to wax poetic about, but here’s the thing: as I cut myself loose from trying for aesthetic perfection, not caring what anyone would think of my topstitching or pieced fabric, sewing felt more like sculpting; using what I had on hand, and my hands, and just making something almost like I was pulling it out of the air.  I was free to use my creativity in any way I wanted, to use whatever I could find, odds and ends of colored thread, salvaged zippers (really nice ones actually)—and I started to see an unexpected beauty in my intentionally imperfect stitching, one that I hope comes through in these photos.  I was free to do whatever I wished, and yet cared enough to add little touches and experiments.  I was trying things, enjoying the process, and making something useful as I went.  With enough practice behind me to be comfortable with fabric and thread, I was able to just play, and it felt pretty magical.

 

garment bag snaps

 

 

garment bag corner stitching

 

Around the same time, as we both worked on various projects for the truck and Bryan’s display before the summer season, he was refinishing the director’s chair that he uses in the booth.  He did a really nice job, dissembling and sanding the chair before applying the new finish.  After all that, I decided it needed a new bag to protect it from getting scuffed all over again as it’s loaded in and out.

 

disassembled chair

Chair in the process of disassembly—we’re looking through where the seat would be.

 

I went back to the thrift store looking for something to line my chair cover with.  I loved searching through the housewares section, looking at everything as a material instead of a finished product (always my favorite kind of shopping), and letting the serendipity of what I found help shape my project.  I decided on two vintage towels for padding the front and back, and a second-hand piece of fabric to round out the outside.  I think the green stripes with my other leftover fabrics make it look like something for sailing.

 

When I announced that I was going to spend our penultimate evening in Flagstaff sewing (this chair cover), I got an enthusiastic “Ok!” from my notoriously goal-oriented husband.  Remind me to try this trick again next year . . .

 

chair bag stitching

 

It’s weird, but having all these me-made covers on our travels this season has been quite a boost to my morale.  Every time I see them, or touch them, I’m reminded that I have a spring of creativity and ingenuity which I can use to make whatever I want, and whatever I need.  That’s pretty much all I need to feel good about life in general.

 

How about you—have you done any creative and/or freeing projects lately?

 

Advertisements

Chard Phyllo Pie, and Experimenting in the Kitchen

 

Years ago I took an Indian cooking class with my mom at our local community college.  Although none of the recipes from the class became my favorites, the instructor said something which I found wonderfully liberating – use what you have.  If a recipe calls for one vegetable or spice you are out of, just try it with something similar or something you think will taste good.  Sometimes, especially when you are cooking something from a culinary tradition other than your own, it can be easy to think you have to have exactly everything the recipe calls for, in exact quantities.  However, that’s, um, never actually true!

I have been thinking about this lately and wondering how to talk about it here, especially since reading this truly stellar piece about everyday cooking on The Yellow House.  One of the true keys to this kind of culinary freedom and weekday luxury is being able to make something with what you have on hand.

For example, the other day I had chard (thanks to my aunt Barbara, who brought some from her garden all the way to Flagstaff in her cooler!), and phyllo dough, but no kind of cheese I would normally use to make spanakopita.  But I did have a large chunk of Beemster Graskaas (creamy Dutch cheese), and a bit of leftover sharp cheddar.  Hmm, I thought, this may not come out so great, but I think it’s worth a shot (embracing the possibility of failure is essential here).

Well, after a couple of bites, I looked at Bryan and asked, “What do you think?”

“I think I like it better than regular spanakopita.” he said.  So did I!  Keep in mind that our normal spanakopita recipe has been a staple in our house for years now.  This one definitely has more of an American comfort-food feeling, deliciously so.

 

Chard Phyllo Pie

 

Makes one 9 x 12 pan, or similar size

Preheat oven to 375° F

1 bunch spinach, kale, chard, or un-identified green from CSA (as long as it’s the kind you cook)

Wash and stem this, my favorite method is to grab the stem with one hand and pull the leafy stuff off with the other hand.  Put the stemmed greens in a pot with a steamer basket and some water in the bottom.  Bring the water to a boil and then turn it down to medium – low heat, let the water simmer until the greens are bright green and relaxed.

Meanwhile, finely chop ½ of one yellow onion and 2 medium garlic cloves

Saute the onion in a litle olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet or pan until it just starts to have a golden color.  Add the garlic and stir and cook for about another minute.

Scrape onion and garlic out of the pan into a bowl.

When the greens are ready, turn off the heat and let them cool for a couple of minutes.  Use tongs to transfer them to a food processor and pulse until pureed (or how you like them).  Add them to the onion bowl.

Also add to the bowl:

–       About 8 oz creamy Dutch cheese (the whole point of this post is to try whatever cheese you like/have!)

–       A little sharp cheddar cheese, or another kind that will add a little more punch to the cheese flavor

–       4 eggs

–        A few grinds of black pepper

–       A pinch of salt

Mix this all together.

Melt (I like to just drop it in the onion pan) 2 Tablespoons butter

Get out your thawed frozen phyllo dough

You may need to cut the phyllo sheets in half. If so, tightly wrap what’s left and put it back in the fridge.  Working quickly, brush a little butter in the pan, lay down a sheet, lightly brush it with butter, lay down the next sheet, etc. until you have used 8 – 10 sheets or half your stack.  Spread on the filling, then repeat with the rest of the phyllo sheets.  If you have some butter left, spread more on the top sheet or two.  Cut the spanakopita into pieces through the top layer of dough, then put in the oven and bake until the top is golden and the filling looks solid where you cut it, about 40 minutes.  With this version the filling will be a little more moist & creamy, definitely let it cook until the top is a rich golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes, cut through the bottom, and enjoy!

 

Not every culinary experiment will produce results you want to note down and make again.  But, with just a little practice cooking with what you have & what you can find, every day can be fresh, wholesome, creative – in other words, a small miracle of food at your fingertips.